There is an old adage in baseball that says, "To win you have to score runs, but to score runs you have to first get on base." The New Mexico State baseball team's three starting outfielders have taken that to heart while helping the Aggies to a 30-11 record, a first-place standing in the Western Athletic Conference and a top 25 ranking throughout the month of April.
Senior left fielder Tanner Waite, junior center fielder Kyle Phillips and senior right fielder Bryan Karraker have combined to score 128 runs, nearly one-third of the Aggies' runs this season. The three have also become one of the best fielding groups in recent Aggie history, something that they all attribute to being good friends.
"The three of us have a lot in common and work pretty well together," said Phillips, a transfer from Edmonds Community College in Washington. "We are always talking after every pitch."
Phillips has 97 putouts on the season to lead the outfielders. Karraker isn't far behind with 83 while Waite has 58. Karraker said the three don't worry about being out of position because they know they have good speed and, more importantly, good communication.
The main aspect, however, that separates this group of outfielders from others is their knack for getting on base and scoring runs. Waite's on-base percentage of .480, Phillips' .461 and Karraker's .450 places them second, third and fourth respectively in the WAC.
The three have a combined batting average of .309 including 129 total hits. All three players have at least 40 hits on the season. They also have a combined 108 walks on the season. Waite, who is the regular lead-off hitter for NM State, has 52 walks, the most by any player in the country.
"My main thing as a lead-off hitter is to try and get on base," Waite said. "Because I know there's a lot of good hitters behind me and the more people we have on base for them the better."
Karraker is often placed in the two-hole by head coach Rocky Ward, batting right behind Waite. He also is in the top 40 in the nation in walks with 31 and also has been hit by a pitch a team-leading 11 times.
"When Tanner (Waite) leads off he tends to walk a lot and I get to see a lot of pitches," said Karraker, a Phoenix native. "That helps me get in tune with the pitcher."
Phillips, whose 44 hits is the most by any Aggie outfielder so far this season, usually hits from the middle of the lineup. In most teams that would signify an average hitter, but Phillips understands this NM State lineup is not like most lineups.
"I feel that in this lineup we're all hitters, from top to bottom," Phillips said. "If any of us were on a different squad we would probably be one of the top guys, you don't find that too often."
Of course, getting on base means nothing if you don't score, but this trio has made sure to take care of the scoring as well.
The three have a combined 129 hits, 108 walks and have been hit by a pitch 20 times meaning they have gotten on base a total of 257 times, not including getting on by an error or a fielder's choice. Their 128 runs scored means they score about half of the time they get on base, an outstanding percentage.
Waite has 47 of the 128 runs the threesome has scored, which not only puts him first in the WAC in runs scored, but eighth in the nation. Karraker's 45 runs scored is second best in the WAC and puts him 13th in the nation.
The play of the Aggies' outfielders has not gone unnoticed by the WAC.
Karraker, who hit a two-out walk-off home run last Friday night (April 20) against Louisiana Tech, was named the Verizon WAC Hitter of the Week for the week of March 5-11. He hit .450 during the week and had an on-base percentage of .577. This was Karraker's second WAC Hitter of the Week honor dating back to last season.
NM State had their second consecutive WAC Hitter of the Week the following week when Phillips came home with the award. Phillips finished the week with a .533 batting average and a .650 on-base percentage.
Waite, meanwhile, was named a 2012 Preseason All-WAC selection. The Westminster, Colo., native was also a 2011 first-team All-WAC selection. He hopes the three outfielders continue to feed off each other and improve along the way.
"We have a lot of fun out there and never hit the panic button," Waite said. "We're confident in ourselves and pull for each other."
That confidence will be heavily tested this weekend when the Aggies head to Waco, Texas, for a two-game series against the Baylor Bears on Friday and Saturday.
The Bears are ranked in the top 5 of all the major polls including a No. 1 ranking in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll. The rankings are well deserved. Baylor is 35-7 on the season including a 24-3 record at home. The Bears are currently on a 24-game winning streak, the longest winning streak by any Big 12 Conference team in the conference's history. Their 18-0 record in conference play is also a Big 12 record.
This is the first time ever the two schools will meet in baseball. Needless to say, a good showing by the Aggie squad this weekend will go a long way in helping NM State's ranking and improving their chances of playing baseball in June.
Both games will be broadcast live on KSNM AM 570.